How to Ace that Mid-Term: Spaced Learning?

When I was in high school in Kenya, I believed that you had to quantify or measure the time you spend preparing for a paper. The more hours I spent reading, the more I felt I had accomplished a successful day of reading. It seemed like if I was not frustrated, tired, stressed…I wasn’t reading or pushing myself enough. Many other students in my high school also prepared in this manner; some went to the extreme of pulling “all-nighters” by studying through the night.

Currently, I don’t have the luxury of time. My 24 hours are split between sleep, work, the kitchen, traffic, my kids, school and that never-ending pile of laundry! I have realized that the best way for me to study is through “bite-size chunks.” I typically jot down on a piece of paper my plan, i.e., 2 hours on Saturday; 2 hours on Sunday, etc. My goal is to understand the reading material in the most natural way possible.

I thought that my approach was somewhat lazy…until I came across a study conducted by Dr. Paul Kelley, a neuroscientist in the U.K. He came up with the learning method called spaced learning which I must say is somewhat intimidating. He proposes that a student should have 10-minute breaks between 20 minutes of intense learning. Per the study he conducted, spaced learners retained 20% more than students who had the typical experience. So perhaps less is truly more?

I don’t think I will emulate the full spaced learning method. I honestly don’t believe that my lifestyle is cut out for it. I mean, a break every 20 minutes? I prefer to continue with my “bite-size chunks” method and possibly borrow some of the tips that he theorized in his study. Indeed, preparation is the key to succeed in graduate school. We all have different learning styles, do what works for you! If you are in search for new learning techniques, feel free to borrow from other people but ensure that you are comfortable with their style and that you resonate with their tips.

Success in your mid-terms & Happy Reading!

For those interested in space learning, here is a link to Dr. Paul Kelley’s study.

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